Dr. Kassam Do You Need B Vitamins?

Are You Getting Enough B Vitamin?
Written by: Dr. Saira Kassam, ND

      March kicked off this year’s Nutrition month, dedicated to unlocking the potential of food! Foods contain a variety of both vitamins and minerals, which are needed by our bodies to carry out various cellular functions. By definition, vitamins are organic compounds that are essential for normal physiological functioning. They are not synthesized by the body and must be ingested through the diet.  Our bodies heavily rely on the diet to meet vitamin requirements, making it so important to eat a well-balanced diet. There are 4 fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E, K) and 9 water-soluble vitamins (C, B). In this week’s post, I will focus on the different B vitamins our body needs.

      The B vitamins are a class of water-soluble nutrients that play an important role maintaining bodily functions. The shift from the Mediterranean diet which was high in B vitamins (fruits/vegetables, legumes, complex carbohydrates, olive oil, red wine, fish and meat to the “typical western diet” (high consumption of processed meat, red meat, butter, high-fat dairy products, eggs, refined grains and sugars) is associated with reduced intake of B vitamins.

      There are 8 individual members of the Vitamin B family, often referred to as B-complex. Each B vitamin is unique in their function. The body does not store B vitamins, as they are water-soluble and excreted in urine. The need for B vitamins increases during times of stress, smoking, alcohol and drug use.  The B vitamins play an important role in the following processes:

  • Energy production
  • DNA & RNA synthesis and repair
  • Maintaining a healthy nervous system
  • Carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism
  • Brain function (Synthesis of neurochemicals)
  • Synthesis of amino acids and fatty acids

      The B complex vitamins include Thiamin (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Biotin (B7), Folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12).  Below is a chart to help you understand the difference between all the B vitamins and which foods you should be eating to get them! Keep in mind that everyone’s dietary needs are different base don factors like lifestyle, diet and medications.  For more detailed information on types of foods that contain the B vitamins take a look at https://www.dietitians.ca/your-health/nutrition-a-z/b-vitamins.aspx

     Now, I know some of you must be wondering if there is an easier way to get all those B vitamins or simply just looking to find an extra source! As mentioned earlier, B vitamins are super important as they are responsible for things like converting food into energy for the day, managing stress levels, preventing migraines and supporting healthy skin. Although whole food sources are the best, a B complex vitamin is a great alternative and certainly fills in the gap if you feel like you are not meeting your daily requirements through just diet. A B complex vitamin contains all 8 of the B's in the correct dosages and forms. Here are some reasons when to consider taking a B complex vitamin: 





Is Generally known as

Dietary sources

Main Role in the body


Thiamin (e)

Whole grain cereals

Meat, especially pork



Soy milk

Brown rice


Helps your body convert carbohydrates and protein to make energy


Involved in the synthesis of neurotransmitters for optimal brain function


Involved in the transmission of nerve impulses (Useful for sciatica and peripheral neuropathy)



Dairy products

Leafy vegetables






Helps your body use fat, protein and carbohydrates to produce energy


Required for the maintenance of mucosal, epithelial and eye tissues


Helps in the metabolism of essential fatty acids in brain lipids, regulation of thyroid hormones and absorption of iron (Can help to prevent and treat migraines)





Whole grain cereal




Cottage cheese

Helps your body use fat, protein and carbohydrates from foods to make energy


Helps over 200 enzymes in the body to function normally


Used for several detoxification processes, DNA repair and synthesis of steroid hormones in the body


Panthotheic acid


Whole grain cereals



Egg yolk

Needed to make haemoglobin


Involved in the synthesis of cholesterol, steroid hormones and ketone bodies (Useful in adrenal dysfunction)


Pyridoxal, Pyridoxamine, Pyridoxine






Potatoes, Sweet Potatoes


Body uses Vitamin B6 to make and use protein and glycogen --> stored energy in your muscles and liver


Helps form haemoglobin which carries oxygen in your blood


Helps in the formation of hormones: GABA, serotonin and dopamine (Deficiency can lead to fatigue, anxiety, insomnia)



Made by intestinal bacteria


Egg yolks

Help with DNA repair and immune function


Fat and glycogen synthesis and amino acid metabolism


Folic acid/Folate


Green vegetables – Spinach, broccoli, Asparagus



Helps to make red blood cells


Helps to prevent birth defects


DNA stability and repair


Required for the conversion of amino acids to neurotransmitters: Serotonin, melatonin, dopamine, adrenaline





Greek yoghurt


Only found in animal products

B12 is needed to form DNA, make healthy blood cells and keep nerves working optimally




     When would you supplement with a B Complex?

  • When you are not ingesting enough B vitamins through your diet (Vegetarian or vegan)
  • If you are ingesting substances that can deplete your body’s B Vitamins (Alcohol, birth control and other pharmaceutical medications)
  • If you have an illness that can benefit from high dose B vitamins (anxiety, depression, migraines, stress) 

     I hope that after reading this post you are more inclined to have a diet that is well balanced. Eating the rainbow can ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs.  Incorporate some of the foods listed above to get your daily requirements for the B vitamins. If you are unable to incorporate them into your diet, take a good quality B complex Vitamin! Talk to your Naturopath if you decide taking a B complex is best for you!




The advice in this article is for informational purposes only. It does not replace the care of a Naturopathic physician.